Bigger isn’t always better.

Tales and observations from a short trip to the home of the Whopper.

In 1957 Burger King’s founder, James McLamore, launched the Whopper after noticing that a rival restaurant was having success with a larger than normal burger. James thought that was probably down to its size, so the Whopper was born and christened, because ‘Whopper’ sounded like ‘something big’ and he thought that was a good thing.

America certainly took the idea of size to heart; Burger King now claims 2.1 billion Whopper sales per year.

That’s hard to believe. Until you watch Americans eat.

I’ve just returned from the International PSP Expo in Vegas and I’ve had plenty of opportunity to watch Americans eat. I have to confess that Vegas is probably the ‘Excess’ capital of America but it still came as a surprise to see a large sign outside one restaurant featuring pizza and pasta and meatballs that simply said ‘Forget Portion Control.’

When Americans talk about ‘five a day’ I think they’re referring to meals.

If you want more, you can always go back.

 I’ve been back to the US pool show over 25 times now, starting in the 80’s when the US still lead the way in wet leisure and just a small handful of us Brits travelled over to seek out the latest innovations that we could take back to the UK.

They call it an International show, which is akin to naming their annual baseball championships the World Series when it’s only for the US. In truth the show is very much an American affair.

In contrast to the rest of America, the PSP Expo has slimmed down over the years. Gone are the two story exhibition stands with top floors specifically to entertain VIP guests. Gone is the International Visitors Lounge, where you could tee up meetings with suppliers and have a discussion in private over a coffee and a bite to eat, all at no cost.

Gone too are a lot of the suppliers.

Less isn’t more.

 Many key manufacturers and international visitors no longer attend, the stands have become smaller and the old vibe missing. Having said that, it’s always important to keep your finger on the pulse of the industry as something new and exciting can always pop up out of the blue.

Back in the good ole’ days we found many great products here, from the Purex Tropic Isle gas heater to the Whisperflo pool pump and the Ionic Purifier. If there’s one thing that Americans seem to excel at, it’s coming up with great names for things; for instance, the ‘Whopper.’

The PSP Expo website talks about ‘establishing impactful relationships’, but as I sat in the crowded concession nursing a $7 cup of coffee, I thought it was more about keeping in touch with good suppliers and old friends and making some new contacts. It’s a shame Britain doesn’t share a common language with the Americans.

The big country.

I suppose my overriding thought about America is that it’s big, a country that is large enough to contain some big people, big businesses and big ideas. The sheer scale of the country means that there will be a lot of good and bad, a lot of contradictions sitting next to each other. The image that sticks with me that sums that feeling up is one from our journey from LA to Vegas.

We drove on Interstate 15 across the Mojave Desert. It’s hot and featureless and the horizon never seems to get any closer. About 50 miles outside Vegas we came to a stunning site. The Ivanpah Solar Power Facility looks sci-fi enough to feature in the opening shots of Blade Runner 2049. (In fact, it actually does.) There are three solar towers generating steam from the sun’s heat focused on them by 173,500 mirrors that are set in concentric circles around the towers.

It is beautiful. It’s clean and sustainable.  It is incredible.

As I watched it emerge out of the dessert I became aware of the traffic on the road in front of it. 8litre Peterbilt trucks probably carrying nothing more than a handful of Amazon parcels. A car-share lane that was empty because no one was sharing their car. Cars and trucks alike with all the aerodynamics of a house brick.

And that’s what it felt like. I can see the future from here, but it feels like I’m living in the past.

Have a nice day, now.

So here I am, back home in Blighty. Christmas is coming and this year is soon due to end. I enjoyed my short trip across the pond and I’m sure that I’ll be visiting our American cousins again soon but in the mean time, I am very glad to be home again.

Let me just leave you with this.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed a good year. In fact, I hope it was a whopper.